The SHARE Conference: A Trainee Perspective

Todays guest blog comes from Anne Brown, a Teaching Museums trainee with Norfolk Museums Service. Anne shares her thoughts on the SHARE Conference in November and reflects on the things she’s learned along the way.

On the 21st November 2016 I had the great pleasure of attending my first SHARE Conference, in the awe-inspiring Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket.

Although only my first conference, this was in fact the 6th Annual Conference for SHARE Museums East and it was immediately clear to me what an important event it has become in the eastern area museums calendar. With well over 100 attendees from a diverse range of settings, representation came from the smaller independent museums, such as the Mildenhall and District Museum and The Norfolk Tank Museum (both run entirely by volunteers), through to the larger establishments like IWM, The Fitzwilliam and my very own, Norfolk Museums Service.

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The day was a well thought out combination of speakers, workshops and the oh-so- important time to network with colleagues you rarely get the opportunity to see, let alone have enough time to talk to.

For the Norfolk Museum Trainees it was a great opportunity to be introduced to so many people from across the region, hear about fabulous projects and join in the various breakout sessions in the afternoon.

The theme of the conference this year was ‘Better Placed? Museums at the heart of successful communities’. After a welcome and introduction Chris Garibaldi and Jamie Everitt, the thought provoking morning Keynote speech ‘Culture making places- challenges and opportunities’ was given by Paul Bristow, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Arts Council England. This was followed by a series of presentations providing working examples of projects based within the heart of the communities they serve. There were plenty of opportunities for questions and comments from the floor, which provided the opportunity for more in-depth discussion of the projects described, both in the room and later over tea and coffee and a very impressive lunch. Chris Garibaldi then provided an introduction to Palace House and delegates at the conference had the opportunity to take a look around the museum. Despite the weather, many delegates took up the opportunity and the chance to say hello to the horses – who were really very welcoming!

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After a long lunch break allowing plenty of time for eating, networking, visiting the museum and the ‘market-place’ (where various organisations and groups- including the Trainees- had set up shop), the afternoon Keynote speech was delivered by Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund for the East of England. Robyn not only provided an interesting and useful insight into how much the HLF values community engagement, but also reflected on the morning’s presentations. The remainder of the afternoon was spent with delegates taking part in a variety of break-out sessions, providing more opportunities for the exchange of information and ideas. This was another great opportunity for myself and the other Museum Trainees to get involved in discussions and workshops with professionals from across the heritage industry in the East. The day was rounded up with thanks and reflections from Steve Miller, Head of Norfolk Museums Service.

My reflections on the day would have to be what a valuable experience it was for me and my fellow trainees. The opportunity to hear about such a range of inspirational projects from passionately committed staff, both paid and voluntary. To meet and have the time to discuss a range of issues, ideas and to hear about the plans, hopes and aspirations of colleagues from across the Eastern region.

A day very well spent. If you have the opportunity I strongly recommend you get yourself booked onto next year’s conference. I know I will.

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Thoughts from Simon Floyd

At the end of July, the longest-standing member of the SHARE team, Simon Floyd, left to pursue his great passion; the theatre. Simon was a mainstay of SHARE from 2009. He played a key role in developing the now well-established SHARE ethos, whereby all contributions are freely offered and equally valued. This has enabled SHARE to nurture a Museum Development programme second-to-none. He was also the inspiration behind the famous owl logo!

Before he left, Simon wrote a short piece on the ethos and achievements of SHARE:

“The SHARE Museum Development Programme has proved that skills-sharing can benefit museums of every size. We work hard to incorporate offers of expertise and resources from museums of all different types. Bishops Stortford museum offered their collections photography expertise, which evolved into a highly successful training course; the National Horse Racing Museum ran a course in business skills; and our networks continue to grow and develop with the goodwill of museum-based coordinators – especially in learning, heritage engineering and costume & textiles. The networks have contributed not only to their own knowledge but to that of the wider museums sector. The deliberate informality of SHARE has been a strength, helping us to deliver successful partnerships involving the biggest museums (including the British Museum) to the smallest volunteer-run organisation.

“SHARE has not only been busy, it’s been cost-effective. By looking for the support we need in our own backyard we have rarely had to pay for trainers, external facilitators or venues. With central coordination and a real willingness from participating museums, SHARE has proved that a lot can be done for not very much.

“Museums across the region now recognise the benefits of offering SHARE support to their own organisations. They see that by sharing time, skills and expertise, staff and volunteers can develop their practice and knowledge. By contributing to the development of others they learn to value both their own contribution and that of their museum.

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“We value all contributions equally – experience, knowledge, resources, even attendance at an event. In challenging times it takes a leap of faith to believe this, but the principle survives: it’s good to share, and everybody is stronger for it.

“Here are a few of the things we’ve learned along the way:

  • To give is to receive – if there is not a win for the contributor, it’s not SHARE.
  • Making and maintaining relationships takes most of the energy, but it is the most important thing.
  • Get people with similar interests together and, if you help them with small amounts of money and central support, good things will always happen.
  • Trust the instincts of those who do the job, and be ready to take risks.
  • Be collaborative and listen – try to meet needs with practical solutions.
  • Stay informal, people are much more comfortable talking about their ‘experience’ than their ‘expertise’.
  • Find a brand that unites people behind an idea – our owl and strapline (‘a network of know how’) work because they are inclusive, simple and encourage participation.

“One thing is certain – we all have something to give and something to gain. Long may we explore what this wealth of knowledge and experience enables us to do.”

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Share Front of House Forum: Fresh Beginnings

Hollie, an intern at the Fitzwilliam Museum, shares her experiences from the Front of House Forum’s latest event that took place at Palace House.

Taking part in the Share Front of House Forum held at Palace House in Newmarket was a fantastic opportunity to interact with museum staff from a range of museums across a variety of disciplines, and to share ideas on how to deal with change in the museum context.

As an intern, it was eye-opening for me to hear about how different museums have tackled change; whether it be a change to the museum’s collection; a physical change to the space and the site in which the museum is located, or dealing with a change in how the museum is perceived by the visiting public. It was great to make new connections with other museums at this early stage in my career, and picking up new techniques along the way was all part of the fun.

Never did I think hopping around the room together could be a relevant exercise in museum practice! But, in fact, our taster session on body language with Aimee Clarke from Ickworth House was a really enlightening lesson in how to improve our social interactions with the visiting public.

The overall ethos of the day was one of mucking in together; change is constantly occurring in museums and can sometimes be a very complicated process, but if we all work together to complete even those smallest of tasks, like changing a lightbulb, our museums will become even more successful for it.

Culture 24’s Action Research Projects : Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museum

Thanks to funding from SHARE Museums East, Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museums were able to take part in one of Culture 24’s Action Research Projects. The focus of this project has been to explore how arts and heritage organisations can get better reach and engage young audiences with their digital content. 19 arts and heritage organisations have been working on the project, running a variety of different experiments. The results of these will be put together in a report produced by Culture 24 and accessible to organisations.

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Francesca Pellegrino, Audience Development Officer at Epping Forest District Museum, tells us more.

Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museum’s experiment.

Each organisation worked with a mentor to develop an experiment suited to their organisation. For us we were keen to work with secondary schools as this is an underrepresented group for our service. Trialling a project that might be able to work for this age group was really important.

So our experiment was:

“To run a one-day digital making workshop with a group of 15 secondary school students, to bring a display object to life, as a pilot for developing an ongoing programme for secondary schools.”

After attending a SHARE training session on digital technology and piloting its use in an exhibition at Lowewood Museum (curated by our Youth Panel), this seemed an obvious way to go.

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What happened:

15 pupils from two local secondary schools visited the museum for a one-day workshop, bringing museum objects to life using digital technology. In 4 groups they each came up with ways to make their chosen objects more interactive. These included touchboards, sound, voice recordings and instructions. It became clear that the pupils wanted objects to to speak, rather than just reading information about the object.

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What did the young people say:

“I like creating workshops like this and creating new devices as well as looking round the museum”

“Experimenting with new things and creative technology”

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What else they would like to do?

“More days like this as technology attracts this age range”

“More electronics, devices and making”

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Overall they all really enjoyed the workshop and all successfully produced an interactive around an object. The teachers also found it a really useful and interesting workshop, and were keen to develop this further.

Going forward we hope to access more funding in order to trial a few more of these workshops before rolling out a programme for local secondary schools.

 

Enterprise & Philanthropy: building relationships to fund museums

by Miranda Rowlands, SHARED Enterprise

What motivates individuals to support culture and heritage?  How do I approach businesses to work in partnership with the museum?  How can we generate more income from commercial operations?  SHARED Enterprise has been helping regional museums answer these questions, working with them to build their capacity and skills to fundraise from private donors, corporate sources, trusts and foundations.

On Wednesday 2 March, SHARED Enterprise hosted a conference at the Museum of London, in partnership with Inspiring a Culture of Philanthropy, another HLF Catalyst Umbrella project delivered by Hampshire Cultural Trust.  With Steve Miller, Head of Norfolk Museums Service, presiding as Conference Chair, the day’s programme shared case studies and learning about fundraising and commercial income generation in museums.

The day was attended by 85 delegates from the East of England, Hampshire and as far afield as the Wirral, who have given resoundingly positive feedback about the day.  The aim was to show that attracting funds from alternative streams is something that can be done by museums of all types and sizes, as most activities can be scaled to fit the needs of any organisation.

Here’s what people are saying about the event:

“…brilliantly helpful and instructive. Excellent range of presentations and lots of practical ideas for immediate implementation, as well as for longer-term strategic planning.”

“Very good day – informative, stimulating and hugely enjoyable”

“Well organised, co-ordinated and structured. A great day with relevant and useful speakers”

“Very enjoyable event.  Well organised and very useful. Excellent speakers.”

Following an inspirational keynote presentation by Peter Maple, Visiting Lecturer and Fundraising Researcher at London South Bank University and St Mary’s University, participants in both projects shared what they have learned.  Tony O’Connor from Epping Forest District Museum, (due to re-open on 19th March following a major refurbishment), has recently undertaken a review of the museum’s pricing strategies, charging policies and fundraising strategy.  Kate Axon and Vanessa Trevelyan talked about how Museum Directors and Trustees the Museum of East Anglian Life are working together to develop trustees’ fundraising capacity and promote a positive culture to support fundraising and income generation.  Director of Gainsborough’s House, Mark Bills has been proactive in forging links with neighbouring businesses to put Gainsborough at the heart of Sudbury’s business community.

The afternoon sessions focussed on learning from experience, starting with a particularly useful panel discussion with a fundraising consultant and representatives of three grant-making bodies.  The panel shared what they look for in a good funding application, and perhaps more telling, some tips to avoid writing a bad one.  The most memorable applications give a clear and concise explanation of the project, from which the organisation’s passion and enthusiasm shine through.  Surprisingly, the panellists said they still receive a large number of applications which are poorly written, with grammatical and punctuation errors and budgets that don’t add up.  Shockingly, many applicants also commit the cardinal sin of copying and submitting the same application to several different funding bodies, as evidenced by applications received that are addressed to somebody else!  The top 5 tips are:

  • write each application individually – don’t sent batch applications
  • keep it under 2 pages long
  • tell your story clearly and concisely
  • use photographs / diagrams where appropriate
  • check your grammar, punctuation and calculations carefully

We then learned about generating income from alternative streams.  Operations Manager for Norwich Museums, Stuart Garner, shared his insight into the various challenges and factors to consider when delivering weddings in heritage buildings.  Venue hire, whether for weddings or other purposes, is for many museums and as-yet untapped income stream, so this was of particular interest to several delegates considering alternative ways to use museum spaces to earn more income.  Jaane Rowehl, Museum Development Officer for the South East Museum Development programme shared her experience of working with television companies filming in museums.  The museum was successful because they were able to respond to the opportunity when it arose, and they negotiated a deal which not only compensated them for their loss of income during a period of closure necessary for the filming but also provided extra income for the use of their location.

Anne Young, Head of Strategic Planning at the Heritage Lottery Fund, rounded off the day with a closing keynote address about HLF’s Strategic Framework, some of the projects supported by HLF and future funding opportunities.

So what did delegates tell us they learnt that will make a difference to their work?

“I have got a much better understanding of the broader meaning of ‘philanthropy’ and, as a result, feeling of greater confidence in exploring this in my museum.”

“Top tips for applications from a funder’s perspective ”

“Keep funders informed of the progress of your project after they have given you funding – even if they don’t ask for it – it helps develop a relationship.”

 “Build relationships and positively promote cause…”

“Embedding a culture of fundraising throughout the organisation.” 

If you were not able to attend the conference and would like to know more, presentations from the day are available to download from the SHARED Enterprise resources page.  You can also contact Miranda, SHARED Enterprise Project Officer, on 01603 228993, miranda.rowlands@norfolk.gov.uk.  More SHARED Enterprise training events, focussed on fundraising and income generation skills, will be coming soon.  Keep an eye on the training calendar for news.

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Anyone for Tea? A Retail Opportunity

The SHARE Retail Forum steering group have been asking whether buying from suppliers as a group of museums can save time and money and support the development of museums’ retail offer.  After SHARE supported her to attend the Association for Cultural Enterprise’s annual convention in Bournemouth last year Liz Cooper, Commercial manager at Gainsborough’s House, has had an idea of how it  might work with an opportunity to link with other local museums to purchase a semi-bespoke top selling tea product.

Liz is offering to coordinate the group purchase of a range of tea bags pouches specially blended for the East Anglia water with a suite of labels that reflect museums, art, objects and textiles. This will allow museums to sell a low price gift and promote great collections in the region. With small quantity options and the reassurance of buying in a team it provides the means to have your artwork on a product at a cost to suit your budget.

Click to download more information on this opportunity:

[prettyfilelink size=”” src=”http://sharemuseumseast.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/The-Tea-Deal-­-in-a-nutshell.docx” type=”doc”]The Tea Deal: In a Nutshell[/prettyfilelink][prettyfilelink size=”” src=”http://sharemuseumseast.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/151027-Heritage-Teas.docx” type=”doc”]Heritage Teas Information Sheet[/prettyfilelink]

Below are some product example images from Gainsborough’s House.

 

If you are interested in exploring this opportunity further please contact Liz directly at liz@gainsborough.org or on 01787 372958.
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